At the end of 1976, George Harrison released Thirty Three & 1/3, a return to form after a few moribund years in the mid-‘70s—even critics who’d been pretty dismissive of Harrison’s solo work (*cough* Robert Christgau *cough*) found it praiseworthy. It earned Harrison’s first unqualified raves since 1970’s lauded 3xLP All Things Must Pass, and Harrison promoted the work heavily. He made three videos from the album—over five years before MTV was even a thing—and two of them were directed by Monty Python’s Eric Idle.
The album’s release was the occasion for a major interview in Crawdaddy’s February 1977 issue, titled “The Quiet Beatle Finally Talks.” Harrison opened up to writer Mitchell Glazer for nine pages of substantive chat, including a ton of inside information about the Beatles’ working methods and their dissolution, and he didn’t conceal any bitterness about his relationship with Paul McCartney, which was a habit of his, actually.
I got back to England for Christmas and then on January the first we were to start on the thing which turned into Let It Be. And straightaway again, it was just weird vibes. You know, I found I was starting to be able to enjoy being a musician, but the moment I got back with the Beatles, it was just too difficult. There were too many limitations based on our being together for so long. Everybody was sort of pigeonholed. It was frustrating.
The problem was that John and Paul had written songs for so long it was difficult. First of all because they had such a lot of tunes and they automatically thought that theirs should be the priority, so for me I’d always have to wait through ten of their songs before they’d even listen to one of mine. That’s why All Things Must Pass had so many songs, because it was like you know, I’d been constipated. I had a little encouragement from time to time, but it was a very little. I didn’t have much confidence in writing songs because of that. Because they never said “Yeah, that’s a good song.” When we got into things like “Guitar Gently Weeps,” we recorded it one night and there was such a lack of enthusiasm. So I went home really disappointed because I knew the song was good.
Paul would always help along when you’d done his ten songs—then when he got ‘round to doing one of my songs, he would help. It was very selfish actually. Sometimes Paul would make us do these really fruity songs. I mean, my God, “Maxwell’s Sliver Hammer” was so fruity. After a while we did a good job on it, but when Paul got an idea or an arrangement in his head…but Paul’s really writing for a 14-year-old audience now, anyhow.
The interview also delves at length into the Beatles’ early days in Hamburg, their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, and Harrison’s mystical leanings—astonishingly little ink is devoted to Thirty Three & 1/3. But that’s no reason not to share the three videos from that album. The first, “This Song,” is a direct address to the infringement lawsuit he’d just recently lost, wherein he was accused, with ample justification, of poaching his 1970 single “My Sweet Lord” from the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.” Harrison directed that one himself, but the others, “Crackerbox Palace” and “True Love,” are the Eric Idle directed clips mentioned above.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Beatle George Harrison’s brief journey into experimental electronics
We’ve been expecting you: George Harrison’s charming ‘Crackerbox Palace’ short directed by Eric Idle